An important tract of Platte River channel habitat in central Nebraska has been acquired for waterbird management.
"This is Ducks Unlimited’s second largest Nebraska acquisition and DU’s first on the Platte River,” said Steve Donovan, DU’s manager of conservation programs for Nebraska.
The tract was purchased from the Younkin Estate in October, using funds from a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and other donors. Other grant partners include Prairie Plains Resource Institute, Nebraska Environmental Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several private landowners.
The 400-acre property extends for a mile along the river, just west of Rowe Sanctuary, owned by the National Audubon Society. DU and the Audubon Society are entering into an agreement to allow Audubon to manage this property as an extension of its Rowe Sanctuary.
The Younkin place is also in close proximity to other protected habitats managed by The Nature Conservancy, Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, all partners in the grant.
"DU will be working with partners on a restoration plan for the property over the next six months," Mr. Donovan said. "We have already submitted a proposal to the Nebraska Environmental Trust seeking a grant to assist with the cost of proposed restoration work. If we are successful, habitat restoration actitivities will be completed in late 2008."
Platte River on the Younkin property, during a period of extremely low flows on the river. Looking east from the bridge.
Grasslands on the Younkin property. Looking east from the highway. Images courtesy of Steve Donovan, Ducks Unlimited.
The Big Bend Reach of the Platte River NAWCA grant will protect and enhance about 2,600 acres of some of the most important migratory bird habitat in Nebraska, according to a press release issued by Ducks Unlimited. This bend serves the vast majority of waterfowl that travel through the state, including millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, Sandhill Cranes and several endangered species like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.
The Big Bend Reach of the Platte River is one of North America’s most popular birding areas, and the site of an annual Rivers and Wildlife Celebration of the Sandhill Cranes and other spring fowl.
NAWCA is a federal grant program that funds wetland habitat conservation projects throughout North America.
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan identifies the Platte River as a waterfowl habitat of major concern due to long-term habitat loss and reduced water flows. In addition, aggressive, non-native plant species are choking the river and reducing the river’s ability to provide critically needed habitat for migratory birds.